Improving my writing is an ever-evolving process, and one that I’ve recently learned is much easier to do with other people’s help. I’m very protective of my writing. I don’t like showing it to people; in fact, it was a long time before I even told anyone, including my husband, that I was writing a book. So for a long time, my efforts to improve my writing were solitary endeavors. I’d read books or participate in online workshops. I finally got up the courage to attend a writer’s workshop at a local bookstore, and spent the entire time praying that I would not have to show anyone what I’d written.
When I joined RWA, I attended many of their conference workshops and found them helpful. Little by little, I realized as I spoke to fellow writers there, that we were all in the same boat. Slowly, I began to show people my writing, starting with query letters or synopses and eventually graduating to opening paragraphs or chapters.
I submitted to contests, with my heart in my throat each time I received back my packet with critiques from contest judges. The contests I chose to enter were those that offered feedback. My goal was not to win, but to get unbiased opinions on my work. I poured over their comments, trying to determine which comments made the most sense to me. I chose agents and editors to submit to, based on listening to what they had to say at conferences and hoping that they’d send me back more than a form letter. Many of them were gracious enough to comment on my writing, and I used their comments to strengthen my writing for the future.
The best thing I ever did, though, was to find a critique partner whose judgment I trust. I put out a call for critique partners on a writer’s loop I belong to and received many interested responses. Through trial and error, that list of people whittled itself down to one. She is terrific! She’s older than I am and brings a different perspective to my writing. She’s got a keen eye for punctuation and grammar, as well as noticing repetitive words or descriptions. While I may not take all of her comments (just as she doesn’t take all of mine), I am grateful to her for making my writing stronger than it was before.
Writing is a solitary pursuit, which is one of the reasons I like it, but even I can’t do it alone.